Clearly, there is demand to apply and upscale URDT’s methodology to a larger population. Therefore, since 2012 URDT facilitates the establishment of community based epicentres (CBEs). Through its African Rural University (ARU), URDT has developed a new breed of 26 community development workers whom it deploys to support the founding and management of these epicentres. These centres demonstrate best practices in sustainable rural development, and creating conditions for the emergency of new type of leadership in the communities and within local governments.

The Community Driven Development approach is a concept URDT has been holding since its inception in 1987: development starting in once place and spiralling like in an epicentre from Kagadi, to Kibaale District, to Uganda and ultimately cover the whole of Africa. The spirit is also captured in the URDT motto: AWAKENING THE SLEEPING GENIUS IN EACH OF US.

What are the main objectives?

  1. To establish well functioning Epicentres that catalyse Community Driven Development as an effective strategy for wealth creation and health in rural areas
  2. To grow a movement of rural people who realize that improved living standards is within everyone’s reach
  3. To apply visionary leadership and systems thinking in decision making at village, parish, sub county and district levels
  4. To improve transparency and accountability at all levels

Why the Epicentre terminology?
The Epicentre terminology is derived from the earthquake epicentre where tremor begins and spreads out. Development of communities take that shape. The individual and its household can be an epicentre. However, URDT is using a collective approach where the sub-county is an area of collective learning and action.

What is happening in Epicentres?
Therefore Epicentre is a place where people come together to learn, discuss concepts, share ideas and generate energy for focused action. They test, demonstrate and disseminate good practices. The envisioned community based epicentres (CBE) constitutes of:

  1. A resource centre (including meeting/ training room; internet café; library; office for rural transformation specialist and para-extensionists)
  2. Fields to test and demonstrate sustainable agricultural and agri-business best practices
  3. Demonstrations of appropriate rural technologies
  4. Outreach facilities in the form of field demonstrations in centres of excellence owned by exemplar community members
  5. Any other element that enhances the role of the Community Based Epicentre

What is the societal vision?
Every village in Kibaale District, and ultimately Africa, has at least one woman leader who is an specialist in catalyzing rural transformation from within the communities. She works closely with Community Based Epicentres enabling the people, starting from each individual in that community, to be in the driver’s seat of their own development.

What are the expected results within 5 years?

There are 16 epicentres established and operational. At least 3.400 households (approximately 30.000 people of which at least 17.000 are youth) in 340 villages have improved the quality of their live, in particular in health and income. The indicators for success include:

  1. households participating in the program have a creative (visionary) life orientation. They have moved from the fatalism and helplessness to a life orientation where they work towards their aspirations (e.g. health, prosperity, peace, happiness and freedom)
  2. households apply environmental sanitation measures and have diversified their sources of income
  3. households show citizenship behaviour. Young people transcend tribal, religious and gender barriers and work together to create a society that works for everybody as a way of building a new Uganda
  4. community action plans implemented in identify strategic areas of intervention, commit to work together, transcend traditional gender, religious, tribal barriers and realise collective results and at the end of the day they do it together because of collective efforts.
  5. development agencies in the respective sub counties have capacity in human and civil rights approaches to development. The organisations design and implement programmes based on basic rights rather than on needs.
  6. Youth, women and people with disabilities in the project areas participate in civic and economic development programmes. Their economic and social status has improved.

What are the fundamental changes the epicentres wants to achieve?

The epicentre methodology aims that participants will gain mastery in : the principles of the creative process, systems thinking and sustainable development. After attainment of the aspiration, the question ‘what next’ leads to formulating a new vision and the same cycle of structural tension (= energy) is developed, actions evolve and this leads to sustainable development. The structural tension in this methodology enhances strategic thinking and planning.


The Epi-centre strategy uses the following methods:

  1. Consciousness raising and training to deal with mind-set change first. Members of the community are trained as para-extensionists to train other community members and are introduced to the principles of the creative process. If these principles are internalized and practiced, visionary leadership emerges. The leaders mobilizes others to apply the same principles. In this way the desire for transformation comes organically and the energy levels to change the status quo become higher and higher.
  2. Extension and training in interrelated disciplines. The participants are introduced in what they intuitively did but are often not conscious about: integrated planning. They are accustomed, often by force, to segment development disciplines. Here they will learn systems thinking to address the interconnectedness of health, education, financial self-sufficiency, civic participation and traditions within their lives – in concert with visionary leadership. The entry point is health, especially water and sanitation, and nutrition based agriculture. Thereafter, linkages for financial intermediation and training in commercial agriculture, natural resources management, appropriate technologies and gender related issues will follow.
  3. Information sharing and dialogues. Members of the communities and leaders share their views on the community radio (KKCR 91.7 FM)). They give testimonies on how they have changed their mind sets and apply the newly gained skills to change the quality of life. Dialogues between the different stakeholders are organised to enhance shared visions and shared actions plans and transcendence above tribal, religious, gender and political barriers.
  4. 2-generation approach. Adults and children at schooling age (especially girls) are supported to develop collaborative structures to ensure sustainable livelihood and health in their homes and communities. For example, they learn together, develop a shared vision, analyze their current situation, apply systems thinking and team learning, plan for actionable steps together and learn functional adult literacy skills to attain their shared goals.
  5. 3 level interventions. The Epicenter strategy involves three intervention levels for lasting change:
  1. The sub-county. The EM facilitates a process that leads to a shift in planning from activity to outcome focused planning in the fulfilment of Uganda Vision 2040. Technical Government staff and Political leaders are trained in the elements of the Visionary Approach to Programming. As result the service delivery of local governments is rooted in the aspirations and actions suggested by the rural folks. The Epicentres have been established in this public, private partnership arrangement. Local leaders are trained to get more tools for community driven development,
  2. The household and village level; where community learning takes place. The community influences planning at the local government level, hence creating relevant service delivery. On their side, the groups evolve self- help projects based on their visions. Over time, these projects attain self-reliance in interdependent villages as they form the village development programmes. Through Community Action Planning (CAP), interdependence, community learning and social capital development are enhanced,
  3. The Individual. Several individuals make up a household, and several households make up a village. So, as people who understand that for development to take root in the villages, there must be structural shift, they also know that to effect such a shift, the best leverage points in the system must be identified. In a social economic system, the key leverage points are individuals. Through their aspirations and conscious choice making, they shift their own life orientations from merely reacting or adapting to the events as they occur (problem solving), to a life orientation in which they are the creators of their lives. In the Epicenter strategy, this is what consciousness raising does.

Key tasks

The key tasks of the Epicentre Managers is to work closely with sub-country leaders to:

  1. Carry out a community survey to identify their aspirations, capacity development needs, benchmarks, identify the 17 sub-counties and sites for the CBEs
  2. Mobilise communities to prepare and implement strategic plans and access resources to achieve their visions
  3. Facilitate Community Action Planning
  4. Facilitate community resource mobilisation
  5. Organise youth, women and people with disabilities for civic and economic participation
  6. Assist to identify and support the various parts of the CBE
  7. Establish and manage a resource centre /office as part of the CBE
  8. Raise funding for the management of the CBE
  9. Manage a mind-set change programme for communities and counterparts at sub county and parish level (Consciousness raising)
  10. Organise training of stakeholders in relevant fields[1].
  11. Training of para extension workers with whom RTS will work closely
  12. Participate in local government activities. E.g. sub-county planning and budgeting conferences
  13. Organise radio programmes on the community radio KKCR 91.7 FM
  14. Establish and manage development data base
  15. Continued participatory action research in collaboration with ARU
  16. Networking and maintaining partnerships with other development agents
  17. Monitoring and evaluation of methodology and achievements

Training for example in: i) social organisations; ii) peace building; iii)application of the principles of the creative process to evolve visionary leadership; iv) democracy and good governance; v) theory and application of gender, technology and development; vi) Human right based approach to programming; vii) application of rural development strategies; viii) citizenry and patriotism; ix) HIV/AIDs and family planning; x) farming as a business and sustainable agriculture

  1. How does URDT ensure sustainability?
    The sustainability of the Epicentres constitutes of institutional, financial, environmental, social and political elements. More details below.
    Institutional sustainability is ensured through:
    Developing capacity at various levels in the sub-county. In particular the following actors are involved:
    • para-extensionists that are part of the human resource pool of the EC. They develop skills to enhance the mission of the ECs;
    • model households in agri-business management or other forms of sustainable livelihoods that are centres of excellence linked to the Epicentres. As soon as possible, the ECs will move from working with these pockets of change towards working with entire model villages that act as demonstrations to transform the entire district
    • community development officers at sub-county and district level;
    • other relevant actors in the development arena;
    The capacity development in the methodological domain at the Epicentres enables the above mentioned actors to develop a creative (visionary) life orientation, that moves them and community members from the problem solving orientation and fatalistic thinking to actions that originate from their true aspirations (e.g. health, prosperity, peace, happiness and freedom). On the other hand, the capacity development in the programmatic domain at the Epicentres and communities improve their technical skills to act as catalysts of sustainable development. It will enable them to mobilise resources and move towards self-reliance. All the above, will ensure a large human resource pool at sub-county level to sustain the work of the Epicentres.
  2. Develop capacity of URDT’s offspring: the African Rural University (ARU) for continued expansion of the human resource pool of students and graduates in technologies for rural transformation. URDT continues to strengthen ARU’s course content and delivery to ensure its graduates have mastery in the 3 strategic areas (Mastery of the principles of the creative process; Mastery in systems thinking; Mastery in holistic planning for sustainable development);
  3. ARU works closely with the Epicentres to develop its capacity and to utilise the ECs as social laboratories for research and placement of students at sub-county level;
  4. Application of the principles of the learning organisation: working around shared visions, apply systems thinking, personal mastery, team learning and be aware of mental models. There is striving for excellence in delivery of services and products, monitoring and evaluation.

Financial sustainability
The ECs are run on sound financial management practices and the principle of modesty and frugality. There is monthly control at the requisition, budgeting and expense side. The ECs will undergo annual financial audit reports. Financial means to manage the EC’s programmes will come for diverse sources. For example:
1. Local and central government funded programmes like CDD and NAADS;
2. Service provision (training at a fee, internet services, market information services, information brokering;
3. Contracts from agents who operate in the same area;
4. International partners.

Environmental sustainability
Environmental considerations are dealt with in the selection of appropriate technologies, trainings, specific projects and office management. For example sustainable agricultural technologies are demonstrated to prevent soil degradation. Part of enterprise selection includes a simple environmental impact assessment to prevent potential to harm the environment. The EPs will raise awareness on the importance of using modern methods to make bricks to reduce the degradation of the environment. Specific projects to mitigate the impact of climate change will be developed with the communities.
The ECs’s offices are run on solar electricity. The EMs use solar powered lap tops and reading lights. As such, they will act as example in the use of renewable energy sources.

Social sustainability
The Epicentres are involved in development of social capital in which, different interest groups learn to live together in diversity i.e. transcend tribal, religious and gender barriers and work together to create a society that works for everybody as a way of building a new Uganda.

Kiiza Nobert